Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Summit on Monday and pledged Washington’s “ironclad” support for Israel. The top diplomat also outlined plans to pressure Saudi Arabia into a normalization deal with Tel Aviv in order to bolster the country’s security.
Blinken claimed America’s commitment to Tel Aviv is unshakable. “Now, we have to start from this. The US-Israel relationship is underwritten by the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security. That commitment is non-negotiable; it is ironclad,” he said.
However, a growing number of Americans are opposed to the billions in military aid granted to Israel every year, while several human rights groups have labeled Israel as an “apartheid state“ due to Tel Aviv’s cruel treatment of its Palestinian subjects.
Blinken asserted that Israel was a democracy several times during his AIPAC speech, insisting the country “was founded – our partnership was built – on democratic values, which include equal access by all people to their rights.” Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has been convicted on at least eight charges, including supporting a terrorist organization and inciting racism.
The diplomat went on to tout the billions in military aid the US hands Israel annually. “We are providing $3.3 billion in foreign military financing to Israel each year. On top of that, Israel receives $500 million in funding for missile defense,” he continued, adding “We’re also delivering an additional $1 billion in funding to replenish supplies for Israel’s Iron Dome.”
The Joe Biden administration is finding areas to further boost its already-strong military support for Tel Aviv, including “expanding our joint military exercises that improve how our forces work together seamlessly,“ Blinken told attendees at the AIPAC summit. “This year, we have more joint exercises scheduled than at any point in our history.”
A powerful lobbying org, AIPAC is known for its vast influence in Washington. In their book ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,’ John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argued the group has a “stranglehold on the US Congress,” naming it as “the most important and best known” organization in America’s sprawling Israel lobby.
Near the end of the Donald Trump presidency, Washington brokered agreements between Israel and several Arab states collectively dubbed the Abraham Accords. Blinken said the White House plans to create a new office to expand those deals, calling it a “position to further our diplomacy.” He went on to say that Biden would aim to build on the work of the Trump administration “in order to achieve significant historic progress to deepen and broaden the Abraham Accords.”
Some analysts explained that rather than fostering a new era of peace in the Middle East, the agreements have helped to kickstart an arms race. “I have referred to the Abraham Accords as the ‘Arms Sales Accords’ because they could yield tens of billions [of dollars in] new arms sales to the region,” weapons industry expert William Hartung told Responsible Statecraft in 2020. “They will do more for weapons contractors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing and undemocratic regimes like the UAE than they will to promote peace in the region.”
The secretary of state argued that normalizing ties between Tel Aviv and Riyadh would mark another step to improve Israel’s security. The United States has a real national security interest in promoting interactions between the two countries, he said, adding, “We believe that we can and indeed we must play an integral role in advancing it.”
China’s growing influence in the region could pose an obstacle to Blinken’s plans, however, as Beijing recently brokered a major normalization pact between Tehran and Riyadh, who have long been rivals. Iran is often the target of joint US and Israeli war games, so the Saudi government may feel less pressure to improve ties with Tel Aviv as tensions with Tehran have been significantly deescalated.